Numbers 13


Twelve men, one out of every tribe, are sent to examine the

nature and state of the land of Canaan, 1-3.

Their names, 4-16.

Moses gives them particular directions, 17-20.

They proceed on their journey, 21, 22.

Come to Eshcol, and cut down a branch with a cluster of grapes,

which they bear between two of them upon a staff, 23, 24.

After forty days they return to Paran, from searching the land,

and show to Moses and the people the fruit they had brought with

them, 25, 26.

Their report-they acknowledge that the land is good, but that

the inhabitants are such as the Israelites cannot hope to

conquer, 27-29.

Caleb endeavours to do away the bad impression made, by the

report of his fellows, upon the minds of the people, 30.

But the others persist in their former statement, 31:

and greatly amplify the difficulties of conquest, 32, 33.


Verse 2. Send thou men, that they may search] It appears from

De 1:19-24 that this was done in consequence of the request of

the people, after the following address of Moses: "And when we

departed from Horeb, we went through all that great and terrible

wilderness-and we came unto Kadesh-Barnea; and I said unto you, Ye

are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the Lord our God

doth give unto us. Behold the Lord thy God hath set the land

before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers

hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. And ye

came near unto me every one of you, and said: WE WILL SEND MEN


again, by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall

come. And the saying pleased me well, and I took twelve men of

you, one of a tribe," &c., &c. Nearly the whole of these verses

is added here by the Samaritan.

Every one a ruler] Not any of the princes of the people, (see

Nu 1:4-16,) for these names are different from those; but these now

sent were men of consideration and importance in their respective


Verse 13. Sethur, the son of Michael.] It would have been

strange had the numerous searches after the explanation of the

mystical number 666, Re 13:18; 17:5, met with nothing to their

purpose in the name of this son of Michael. Sethur, from

sathar, to hide or conceal, signifies hidden or mysterious,

and includes in it the numerical letters of the No. 666: 60, +

400, + 6, + 200, = 666. But of what utility can such

expositions be to any subject of history or theology?

Verse 16. And Moses called Oshea Jehoshua.] Oshea, Heb.

should be written Hoshea: the word signifies saved, or a saviour,

or salvation; but , he shall save, or the salvation of

God; a letter, says Calmet, of the incommunicable name of God,

being added to his former name. This was not the first time in

which he had the name Joshua; see Ex 17:9, and the note there.

Some suppose he had this change of name in consequence of his

victory over Amalek; see Ex 17:13, 14.

Verse 18. See the land, what it is] What sort of a COUNTRY it

is; how situated; its natural advantages or disadvantages.

And the people-whether they be strong or weak] Healthy, robust,

hardy men; or little, weak, and pusillanimous.

Verse 20. The land-whether it be fat or lean] Whether the SOIL

be rich or poor; which might be known by its being well wooded,

and by the fruits it produced; and therefore they were desired to

examine it as to the trees, &c., and to bring some of the fruits

with them.

Verse 21. From the wilderness of Zin] The place called;

Tsin, here, is different from that called Sin or Seen.

Ex 16:1; the latter was nigh to

Egypt, but the former was near Kadesh Barnea, not far from the

borders of the promised land.

"The spies having left Kadesh Barnea, which was in the desert of

Paran, see Nu 13:26, they proceeded to the desert of

Tsin, all along the land of Canaan, nearly following the course

of the river Jordan, till they came to Rehob, a city situated near

Mount Libanus, at the northern extremity of the Holy Land, towards

the road that leads to Hamath. Thence they returned through the

midst of the same land by the borders of the Sidonians and

Philistines, and passing by Mount Hebron, rendered famous by the

residence of Abraham formerly, and by the gigantic descendants of

Anak at that time, they passed through the valley of the brook of

Eshcol, where they cut down the bunch of grapes mentioned

Nu 13:23, and returned to the Israelitish camp after an absence of

forty days," Nu 13:25.

See Calmet on this place.

Verse 22. Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.]

The Zoan of the Scriptures is allowed to be the Tanis of the

heathen historians, which was the capital of Lower Egypt. Some

think it was to humble the pride of the Egyptians, who boasted the

highest antiquity, that this note concerning the higher antiquity

of Hebron was introduced by Moses. Some have supposed that it is

more likely to have been originally a marginal note, which in

process of time crept into the text; but all the versions and all

the MSS. that have as yet been collated, acknowledge it.

Verse 23. They bare it between two upon a staff] It would be

very easy to produce a great number of witnesses to prove that

grapes in the promised land, and indeed in various other hot

countries, grow to a prodigious size. By Calmet, Scheuchzer, and

Harmer, this subject has been exhausted, and to these I may refer

the reader. Pliny mentions bunches of grapes in Africa each of

which was larger than an infant. Radzvil saw at Rhodes bunches of

grapes three quarters of an ell in length, each grape as large as

a plum. Dandini saw grapes of this size at Mount Libanus; and

Paul Lucas mentions some bunches which he saw at Damascus that

weighed above forty-five pounds. From the most authentic accounts

the Egyptian grape is very small, and this being the only one with

which the Israelites were acquainted, the great size of the grapes

of Hebron would appear still more extraordinary. I myself once

cut down a bunch of grapes nearly twenty pounds in weight. Those

who live in cold climates can scarcely have any conception to what

perfection both grapes and other fruits grow in climates that are

warm, and where the soil is suitable to them.

From what is mentioned Nu 13:20,

Now the time was the time of the first-ripe grapes, it is very

probable that the spies received their orders about the beginning

of August, and returned about the middle of September, as in those

countries grapes, pomegranates, and figs, are ripe about this

time; see Harmer, vol. i., p. 108-110. At Sheeraz, in Persia, I

find from a MS. journal, that the small white grape, askerie, came

into season August 6; and pomegranates September 6; and the large

red grape, sahibi, September 10.

The spies' carrying the bunch of grapes on a staff between two

men was probably not rendered necessary by the size of the bunch

or cluster; but to preserve it from being bruised, that the

Israelites might have a fair specimen of the fruit As Joshua and

Caleb were the only persons who gave a favourable account of the

land, it is most likely that they were the persons who had

gathered these fruits, and who brought them to the Israelitish

camp. And it is likely they were gathered as short a time as

possible before their return, that they might not be injured by

the length of the time they had been separated from their

respective trees.

Verse 27. We came unto the land, &c.] It is astonishing that

men so dastardly as these should have had courage enough to risk

their persons in searching the land. But probably though

destitute of valour they had a sufficiency of cunning, and this

carried them through. The report they brought was exceedingly

discouraging, and naturally tended to produce the effect mentioned

in the next chapter. The conduct of Joshua and Caleb was alone

magnanimous, and worthy of the cause in which they were embarked.

Verse 32. Men of a great stature] anshey

middoth, men of measures-two men's height; i. e., exceedingly tall


Verse 33. There we saw the giants] nephilim. It is

evident that they had seen a robust, sturdy, warlike race of men,

and of great stature; for the asserted fact is not denied by

Joshua or Caleb.

Tales of gigantic men are frequent in all countries, but they

are generally of such as have lived in times very remote from

those in which such tales are told. That there have been giants

at different times, in various parts of the earth, there can be no

doubt; but that there ever was a nation of men twelve and fourteen

feet high, we cannot, should not believe. Goliath appears to have

been at least nine feet high: this was very extraordinary. I knew

three young men in my own neighbourhood, two of them brothers,

each of whom was upwards of seven feet, the third was eight feet

six inches, and these men were very well proportioned. Others I

have seen of extraordinary stature, but they were generally

disproportioned, especially in their limbs. These instances serve

to prove the possibility of cases of this nature. The Anakim

might appear to the Israelites as a very tall, robust nation; and

in comparison of the latter it is very probable that they were so,

as it is very likely that the growth of the Israelites had been

greatly cramped with their long and severe servitude in Egypt.

And this may in some measure account for their alarm. On this

subject the reader is desired to turn back to the note on

See Clarke on Ge 6:4.

CANAAN was a type of the kingdom of God; the wilderness through

which the Israelites passed, of the difficulties and trials to be

met with in the present world. The promise of the kingdom of God

is given to every believer; but how many are discouraged by the

difficulties in the way! A slothful heart sees dangers, lions,

and giants, every where; and therefore refuses to proceed in the

heavenly path. Many of the spies contribute to this by the bad

reports they bring of the heavenly country. Certain preachers

allow "that the land is good, that it flows with milk and honey,"

and go so far as to show some of its fruits; but they discourage

the people by stating the impossibility of overcoming their

enemies. "Sin," say they, "cannot be destroyed in this life-it

will always dwell in you-the Anakim cannot be conquered-we are but

as grasshoppers against the Anakim," &c., &c. Here and there a

Joshua and a Caleb, trusting alone in the power of God, armed with

faith in the infinite efficacy of that blood which cleanses from

all unrighteousness, boldly stand forth and say: "Their defence is

departed from them, and the Lord is with us; let us go up at once

and possess the land, for we are well able to overcome." We can

do all things through Christ strengthening us: he will purify us

unto himself, and give us that rest from sin here which his death

has procured and his word has promised. Reader, canst thou not

take God at his word? He has never yet failed thee. Surely then

thou hast no reason to doubt. Thou hast never yet tried him to

the uttermost. Thou knowest not how far and how fully he can

save. Do not be dispirited: the sons of Anak shall fall before

thee, if thou meet them in the name of the LORD of HOSTS.

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